Facebook expands AI Ph.D. research program to University College London – CNET

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Facebook AI will be embarking on a four-year partnership with UCL.

Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook is expanding its AI doctoral program to the UK as part of a four-year research partnership with University College London, the company announced Tuesday. Students of the program will spend time at both UCL and Facebook as they pursue projects that can contribute to the company's efforts to publish open-source research.

Facebook's efforts in the world of artificial intelligence can be seen across all of its products, from using machine learning to provide content in different languages, to tracking hand movements in Oculus VR, to helping remove hate speech and other harmful content. The company works in collaboration with the global academic community in order to ensure that its own research complements and is also accessible to other AI researchers through the open-sourcing of its work.

"Working so closely with academia has been a huge positive for us over the last decade, and it's something we're going to do much more of in the coming years," said Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer, announcing the Ph.D. program expansion in a speech to the Oxford University Student Union.

The program will be run in part by Facebook AI Research, a division of the company that has an existing lab in London. The program has already onboarded four students, and three more will join in the autumn, with room for more students to join in each subsequent year of the partnership. There are already 30 doctoral students in FAIR's program in France, where Facebook also has a major AI hub.

Facebook already has strong links with UCL, which boasts the top-ranked computer science research department in the UK, according to the Research Excellence Framework. For each student who joins the program, Facebook will invest £170,000 at the university for the duration.

"Through the arrangements of this program, our PhD students have access to the people and resources from a world-leading academic institution in AI such as UCL and also from FAIR, a world-leading industrial research lab," said Pontus Stenetorp, who leads the Natural Language Processing group at UCL, in a statement. "This makes the program something very special indeed and should appeal to any student that seeks to kick-start a career in AI."

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Don’t turn your nose up at the TikTok viral feta pasta. It’s big for a reason – CNET

It's shocking for a few reasons that it took me so long to make the feta pasta that went viral on TikTok a few weeks ago. First, it is almost ridiculously easy to cook. Second, despite having a whole library of cookbooks, I seem to almost exclusively pick up new recipes from TikTok these days. Finally, I already eat so much feta it feels like Greece might one day thank me for personally contributing such a significant wedge of my income to its GDP.

img-9960.png

People cannot get enough of this pasta.

Katie Collins/CNET

In case you haven't already heard of it, the TikTok feta pasta is a recipe that can be traced back to Finnish food blogger Jenni Hayrinen, who told Today that it became so popular in Finland that stores there ran out of feta. At the end of January, a number of TikTok creators picked up on the recipe and helped send it viral. (The feta pasta hashtag on the platform now boasts almost 515 million views.)

After seeing the recipe pop up on my For You page a dozen or so times and then seeing it cross over to Instagram, I finally decided to take one of the several blocks of feta that sit in my fridge at all times and give it a whirl.

I had some reservations -- we're going all-in on fresh tomatoes in February? Really? -- but as someone who would eat pasta for every meal if that was a socially acceptable lifestyle choice, it didn't take much to convince me. So you might be wondering, as many people in TikTok comments have wondered, is it actually any good?

It's pasta, cheese and tomatoes -- of course it's delicious. I knew it would be, simply because I've been making variations of this dish since I was 14 years old and started cooking up afternoon snacks for my friends and me to eat in bed during school holidays. It didn't change my life or blow my mind, but it did bring me comfort and joy on a cold, gray February evening. That's the magic of cheesy pasta for you.

Some users and food reviewers have been underwhelmed or downright unimpressed with the TikTok pasta, saying the recipe is overhyped, but I'd argue they're missing the point. What we have here is a communal food event that anyone can partake in, at a time when coming together to break bread isn't possible.

The fact that thousands (or millions, if you go by TikTok views) of people around the world have in recent weeks gone to their kitchens, placed cheese on a tray, licked the salty residue from their fingers, heard the soft thuds of tomatoes cascading down around it, drizzled the oil, sprinkled the seasoning and smelled the hot, sweet garlicky air gasp from their ovens, before crushing everything together to make a swirling pink carby mess -- it's kind of remarkable when you think about it.

Eating meals with others has been a bonding experience since the dawn of human civilization. It's quite heartening to know that in spite of everything holding us apart right now, we are still finding ways to make food a shared cultural experience. 

That the recipe is simple and fail-safe isn't a flaw in my eyes. Instead, that's what makes it wonderful and appealing, likely contributing to its viral success. This ain't Bon Appetit, but it's accessible cooking for all levels -- something food TikTok should get credit for more widely. The rookie can embark on this journey and gain confidence. The expert can throw it together and find comfort.

The combination of accessibility and the payoff -- four hearty portions -- sets this apart from other viral recipes that have whipped the internet into a frenzy over the last year amid a pandemic-driven lockdown. Unlike sourdough, banana bread or "the cookies," at the end of the day you were always going to make dinner. So why not make this?

It probably shouldn't be overlooked that many of us have hit a wall in one way or another. If you're anything like me, the endless cycle of cooking and washing up (even with a dishwasher, so much washing up) that comes with eating every single meal in your own home has made it hard to find the energy to try something new. Then there's the sense that if you do branch out, the recipe should be elaborate or exotic and add new skills to your culinary arsenal.

But there's no need to turn making dinner into some misguided self-improvement exercise. The TikTok pasta shows it can be as easy as switching up how you choose to apply heat. If you want to jazz the TikTok pasta up and make it your own, that's cool, but it's also great just as it is.

I've seen people add extra veg or honey or balsamic, or make it with boursin instead of feta, or use spaghetti squash instead of pasta. (You do you, but carbs aren't your enemy, this recipe comes in at under 500 calories for dinner, so eat the pasta if you want it.) Sometimes though, especially in times of high anxiety, it's nice just to have nothing more to worry about than four ingredients, some seasoning and a little oil.

And with that, here's how I made it (it took around 40 minutes in total, and I did an online exercise class while it was in the oven):

80dc37e1-602a-416a-9cfc-3436e59fcb6a

This was before I added the basil, but you get the idea.

Katie Collins/CNET

Ingredients

  • 7-ounce (200-gram) block of feta
  • 30 ounces (850 grams) of mixed cherry and plum tomatoes
  • 12 garlic cloves (because I always double the garlic)
  • 11 ounces (320 grams) of dry pasta (I used fusilli, but any shape will do)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chili flakes (to your own preference)
  • Italian herbs
  • Fresh basil

Recipe

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius).

2. Place the feta in the center of roasting pan or tray, add in the tomatoes and unpeeled garlic cloves around the side, trying to ensure everything is in a single layer.

3. Drizzle over the olive oil, sprinkle over the seasoning and then give everything a good shake or mix with your hands (or both).

4. Pause to take a photo for your Instagram stories.

5. Place tomatoes and feta in the oven and bake for 35 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until it's al dente, then drain, but reserving some of the pasta water in case you need it.

7. Remove tomatoes from the oven and using tongs, remove the garlic cloves.

8. While you let them cool for a moment, take a fork and mash up the tomatoes and feta, being careful not to let hot tomato juice jump up and hit you in the eye. If it's too dry, add a little of the reserved pasta water to loosen it up a bit.

9. Squeeze the garlic cloves from their skins, mash them up and stir them back into the tomato feta sauce with the pasta and some torn-up basil.

10. Serve in four equal portions. (It keeps great in the fridge for lunch the next day.)

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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Don’t turn your nose up at the TikTok feta pasta, it’s gone viral for a reason – CNET

It's shocking for a few different reasons that it took me so long to make the feta pasta that went viral on TikTok a couple of weeks ago. First, it is almost ridiculously easy to cook. Second, despite having a whole library of cookbooks, I seem to almost exclusively pick up new recipes off TikTok these days. Finally, I already eat so much feta that it feels like Greece might one day thank me for personally contributing such a significant wedge of my income to its GDP.

img-9960.png

People cannot get enough of this pasta.

Katie Collins/CNET

In case you haven't already heard of it, the TikTok feta pasta is a recipe that can be traced back to Finnish food blogger Jenni Hayrinen, who told Today that it became so popular in Finland that stores there ran out of feta. At the end of January, a number of TikTok creators picked up on the recipe and helped send it viral (the feta pasta hashtag on the platform now boasts almost 515 million views).

After seeing the recipe pop up on my For You page a dozen or so times and then seeing it cross over to Instagram, I finally decided to take one of the several blocks of feta that sit in my fridge at all times and give it a whirl.

I had some reservations -- we're going all-in on fresh tomatoes in February? Really? -- but as someone who would eat pasta for every meal if that was a socially acceptable lifestyle choice, it didn't take much to convince me. So you might be wondering, as many people in TikTok comments have wondered, is it actually any good?

It's pasta, cheese and tomatoes -- of course it's delicious. I knew it would be, simply because I've been making variations of this dish since I was 14 years old and started cooking up afternoon snacks for my friends and me to eat in bed during school holidays. It didn't change my life or blow my mind, but it did bring me comfort and joy on a cold, grey February evening. That's the magic of cheesy pasta for you.

Some users and food reviewers have been underwhelmed or downright unimpressed with the TikTok pasta, saying the recipe is overhyped, but I'd argue they're missing the point. What we have here is a communal food event that anyone can partake in, at a time when coming together to break bread isn't possible.

The fact that thousands (or millions, if you go by TikTok views) of people around the world have in recent weeks gone to their kitchens, placed cheese on a tray, licked the salty residue from their fingers, heard the soft thuds of tomatoes cascading down around it, drizzled the oil, sprinkled the seasoning and smelled the hot, sweet garlicky air gasp from their ovens, before crushing everything together to make a swirling pink carby mess -- it's kind of remarkable when you think about it.

Eating meals with others has been a bonding experience since the dawn of human civilization. It's quite heartening to know that in spite of everything holding us apart right now, we are still finding ways to make food a shared cultural experience. 

That the recipe is simple and fail-safe isn't a flaw in my eyes. Instead, that's what makes it wonderful and appealing, likely contributing to its viral success. This ain't Bon Appetit, but it's accessible cooking for all levels -- something food TikTok should get credit for more widely. The rookie can embark on this journey and gain confidence. The expert can throw it together and find comfort.

The combination of accessibility and the payoff -- four hearty portions -- sets this apart from other viral recipes that have whipped the internet into a frenzy over the last year amid a pandemic-driven lockdown. Unlike sourdough, banana bread or "the cookies," at the end of the day you were always going to make dinner. So why not make this?

It probably shouldn't be overlooked that many of us have hit a wall in one way or another. If you're anything like me, the endless cycle of cooking and washing up (even with a dishwasher, so much washing up) that comes with eating every single meal in your own home has made it hard to find the energy to try something new. Then there's the sense that if you do branch out, the recipe should be elaborate or exotic and add new skills to your culinary arsenal.

But there's no need to turn making dinner into some misguided self-improvement exercise. The TikTok pasta shows it can be as easy as switching up how you choose to apply heat. If you want to jazz the TikTok pasta up and make it your own, that's cool, but it's also great just as it is.

I've seen people add extra veg or honey or balsamic, or make it with boursin instead of feta, or use spaghetti squash instead of pasta. (You do you, but carbs aren't your enemy, this recipe comes in at under 500 calories for dinner, so eat the pasta if you want it.) Sometimes though, especially in times of high anxiety, it's nice just to have nothing more to worry about than four ingredients, some seasoning and a little oil.

And with that, here's how I made it (it took around 40 minutes in total, and I did an online exercise class while it was in the oven):

80dc37e1-602a-416a-9cfc-3436e59fcb6a

This was before I added the basil, but you get the idea.

Katie Collins/CNET

Ingredients

  • 200-gram / 7-ounce block of feta
  • 850 grams / 30 ounces of mixed cherry and plum tomatoes
  • 12 garlic cloves (because I always double the garlic)
  • 320 grams / 11 ounces of dry pasta (I used fusilli, but any shape will do)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chili flakes (to your own preference)
  • Italian herbs
  • Fresh basil

Recipe

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius / 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Place the feta in the center of roasting pan or tray, add in the tomatoes and unpeeled garlic cloves around the side, trying to ensure everything is in a single layer.

  3. Drizzle over the olive oil, sprinkle over the seasoning and then give everything a good shake or mix with your hands (or both).

  4. Pause to take a photo for your Instagram stories.

  5. Place tomatoes and feta in the oven and bake for 35 minutes.

  6. Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until it's al dente, then drain, but reserving some of the pasta water in case you need it.

  7. Remove tomatoes from the oven and using tongs, remove the garlic cloves.

  8. While you let them cool for a moment, take a fork and mash up the tomatoes and feta, being careful not to let hot tomato juice jump up and hit you in the eye. If it's too dry, add a little of the reserved pasta water to loosen it up a bit.

  9. Squeeze the garlic cloves from them skins, mash them up and stir them back into the tomato feta sauce with the pasta and some torn-up basil.

  10. Serve in four equal portions. (It keeps great in the fridge for lunch the next day.)

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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Uber drivers are workers and deserve rights, UK Supreme Court rules – CNET

gettyimages-1184542969

Uber's struggles in the UK continue.

Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Uber lost a major long-running battle in the UK on Friday, when the country's Supreme Court ruled that Uber drivers should be classed as workers rather than self-employed and therefore deserve some rights. The decision means that a group of drivers who brought a legal challenge against Uber five years ago were entitled to minimum wage and holiday pay. 

The court clarified that those entitlements should be calculated from the moment drivers log on to start work to the moment they log off, rather than just while they had a passenger in their vehicle. The ruling could have far-reaching consequences not just for Uber, but for the wider gig economy and minicab industry in the UK.

The case was originally brought to an employment tribunal in 2016 by drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, with an initial ruling made in their favor. Uber has challenged the ruling multiple times, but every court the case has passed through has upheld the tribunal's original decision.

"This ruling will fundamentally re-order the gig economy and bring an end to rife exploitation of workers by means of algorithmic and contract trickery," said Farrar, who serves as general secretary of the App Drivers and Couriers Union, in a statement on Friday. "Uber drivers are cruelly sold a false dream of endless flexibility and entrepreneurial freedom. The reality has been illegally low pay, dangerously long hours and intense digital surveillance."

Together Farrar and Aslam called on the government to protect vulnerable gig economy workers by strengthening the law so that they have access to sick pay and protection from unfair dismissal.

In a blog post, Uber pointed out that there was a distinction in UK law between worker and employee, and the decision did not now grant Uber drivers full employee status. It also emphasized that the ruling applied only to the drivers who initially brought the case and that many of the issues called out in the judgement no longer applied given changes it had made since that time.

"We respect the Court's decision which focussed on a small number of drivers who used the Uber app in 2016," said Uber's Regional General Manager for Northern and Eastern Europe Jamie Heywood in a statement. "Since then we have made some significant changes to our business, guided by drivers every step of the way. These include giving even more control over how they earn and providing new protections like free insurance in case of sickness or injury."

Heywood added that the company is committed to doing more and will now consult with every active driver across the UK to understand the changes they want to see.

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Carl Pei’s Nothing company has Google’s backing, and it’s building an ‘ecosystem’ of devices – CNET

screen-shot-2021-01-27-at-11-12-40.png

Carl Pei's mystery company Nothing.

Nothing

Two weeks ago, OnePlus founder Carl Pei officially launched his new venture -- a consumer electronics company called Nothing. It might not sound like much so far, but Nothing is backed by GV (previously Google Ventures), which invested $15 million in the company. This entirely financed the company's latest funding round, according to a press release issued Tuesday.

GV is the investment arm of Google's parent company Alphabet, which has previously invested in companies including Uber and Slack. GV is now the latest addition to a list of prominent backers financing Nothing, including Reddit CEO and co-founder Steve Huffman, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave and YouTuber Casey Neistat.

This summer Nothing will release headphones -- its first consumer product. But Pei told Bloomberg in an interview that Nothing is also building "an ecosystem of smart devices," not just in the audio category, that will all talk to each other. The design and the actual details of these products are still top secret, but Pei, who left phone maker OnePlus last year, likely has something exciting up his sleeve to get backing for a new company entering the competitive consumer electronics market.

"Carl Pei is a seasoned entrepreneur with marketing, hardware, and distribution experience that is key to bringing new devices to market," said Tom Hulme, generalpPartner at GV. "His vision for smart devices is compelling, and we have high confidence that with Carl's global mindset, the Nothing team will have a meaningful impact on the market for consumer technology."

When Pei launched Nothing in late January, he described the company as "a giant reset button" for tech. In a statement, Pei said he planned to "aggressively" grow the company, "in particular our R&D and design capabilities, to realize our mission of removing barriers between people and technology." 

The company's website is home to some cryptic text that gives us next to nothing to go on about what more to expect. It's all very mysterious -- consider us well and truly on tenterhooks.

See also: Best wireless headphones for 2021

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Teens, social media use and mental health: What you really need to know – CNET

"Hell is a teenage girl," begins the cult comedy-horror movie Jennifer's Body. Even when you look past the murder-heavy plot, it has a point. Female adolescence has always been a tough time. But this past year has brought unprecedented pressure with the combination of growing up in the age of social media and a pandemic that's disrupted all sense of normalcy.

Last week, the UK's Education Policy Institute and The Prince's Trust published a study that linked heavy social media use to negative well-being and self-esteem in teens, especially among girls. The study was widely covered by the media, featuring alarming headlines about how social media use was causing the mental health of teenagers across the UK to spiral. The message relayed by news publications left little room for nuance. But when you dig a little deeper into the science of social media's impact on well-being, the picture looks infinitely more murky. 

"Social media use is widespread, and mental health difficulties are also common, so it can easily be assumed that one causes the other, but you can't assume that is the case," says Dame Til Wykes, professor of clinical psychology and rehabilitation at King's College London and director for mental health at the National Institute for Health Research's Clinical Research Network.

The media coverage of the EPI and Prince's Trust study drew criticism from the research community, with experts in teen psychology pointing out that, among other issues, the study hadn't been peer reviewed. There was also some dismay that a conclusive stance had been presented to and then parroted back by the media -- a stance which failed to recognize the wider network of existing research that presents a far more complex picture. 

In response to the criticism, the study's author Whitney Crenna-Jennings, senior researcher at EPI, said that while the research had identified that that heavy social media use in adolescence was associated with lower wellbeing and lower self-esteem, that in some cases the opposite was also true.

"Participants in our focus group studies did highlight both the positive and negative aspects of social media in relation to their mental and emotional health," she said. Unfortunately, this was not something that was acknowledged in most news reports.

The fervor over the study and response from the research community underscores the complexity of understanding the effects of social media use on mental health and the dangers of jumping to conclusions with sensational -- and overly simplistic -- headlines. Amy Orben, a research fellow at the University of Cambridge who specializes in studying teenagers and their use of technology, explained on Twitter that this area of science is still developing, with each piece of research a building block that's gradually added to our understanding of the topic. 

Those building blocks have contributed to a mixed image of what's going on. In August 2019, a study published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science showed there was little evidence to link mental health issues to digital technology use in early to mid-adolescence. Just three months earlier, a study published in PNAS said social media use wasn't a good indicator of life satisfaction among teenagers. Meanwhile, a 2020 study published in Nature said the effect of social media on well-being differed from teen to teen. 

A study also published last year by the American Economic Association, which wasn't focused specifically on teenagers but paints a different picture, said that deactivating Facebook for the four weeks preceding the US midterm elections "increased subjective well-being" among participants.

In her response, Crenna-Jennings acknowledged that the EPI study didn't tell the full story of the link between the social media use and mental health. "While our findings provide insights into the relationship between social media and young people's mental health outcomes, there is still a lot that we don't know," she said. "We have called for more research to be undertaken, in order to fully understand the complexities of this relationship."

There are good reasons for wanting to interrogate a possible link here -- the documented increases in mental health problems in adolescents over the past three years, for example. The UK's Office for National Statistics estimates that 27% of young women are likely experiencing mental health problems. But proving that social media has a causal effect on the development of mental health problems is a highly contested space, according to Wykes.

"There are few high-quality scientific studies that have made these tests, and those available either show little or no effect," she said, noting that studies require large samples. 

Mixed messages from the media

One of the BBC's flagship radio shows, Woman's Hour, ran a segment on the study to talk about teen girls and social media. Rather than invite a psychologist, a third-party researcher or even a teenage girl onto the program, the BBC chose 45-year-old male author Matt Haig, who's written about his firsthand mental health struggles but has no firsthand experience of actually being a teenage girl growing up in the digital age.

Haig spoke confidently on the show about the link between mental health problems and social media usage in girls in their early teens, not citing scientific evidence, but his own observations of some girls he happened to know.

"I can think of teenage girls I know and am related who reached say 12, 13, 14, and then certain mental health issues arose and it tied either incidentally or directly to their increased use of social media," he said. Later he added that social media "qualifies as an addictive substance in that age group."

What Haig described here isn't causation, in which mental health problems are proved to be caused by social media usage, but correlation, in which they occur alongside each other but haven't been linked in a scientifically meaningful way. It's a common pitfall to make when discussing this issue, and one that's resulted in widespread confusion about exactly how concerned parents should be.

Haig's sweeping generalizations about teen girls also served to further highlight the failure of Woman's Hour to actually invite a teenage girl to talk about the issue, or at the very least someone who'd experienced growing up with a smartphone and social media notifications as constant companions. Representatives for the BBC didn't respond to a request for comment.

A radical idea: stop and listen?

Back in 2019, model Kaia Gerber, who at the time was just 17, posted Instagram selfies at least once per month for the first half of the year showing a phone case that featured a cigarette packet-style warning: "Social media seriously harms your mental health." Gerber wasn't the only famous Instagrammer to own the case -- and as such the design became popular among teens, and was a regular sight in Instagram selfies.

There was something ironic, meta even, about seeing these warnings appear on social media, and there was an undercurrent of making fun of the established narrative. But the cases also did likely serve as a reminder to their owners to put their phones down once in a while. It also spoke to a broader awareness among Gen Z about the importance of mindful social media usage.

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We shouldn't overlook teenagers' own understanding of the impact social media usage has on their mental health, and we should take the time to listen to what they have to say on the matter, Orben said in an interview this week. Qualitative studies in which teens are able to talk openly about their experiences show that they tend to have a deep understanding of the role social media plays in their own personal well-being and that they often have their own strategies for self-regulation, she says.

They also show that teens have a thorough knowledge of media narratives around kids and social media -- they're able to cite the risks and scare stories, although it's rare they have personal stories of their own to back these up.

Faith Martin, a 19-year-old freelance journalist who's written about disability, believes that teenagers have a better understanding than most about the negative impacts of social media, having grown up with it. "Adults who compare everything to back in their day don't help because the world has changed so much," she said, adding that media narratives tend to focus exclusively on the lives of middle-class teenagers when talking about how social media may affect their well-being.

In August, UK telecoms and media watchdog Ofcom published a study looking at the effects of the lockdown on the digital lives of children and teenagers of different ages -- from what new spaces they were occupying to how they behaved within them. The study's findings didn't speak specifically about mental health, but they revealed a cross-section of findings, including how key socialization had moved online and was done in conjunction with other activities.

The closest it came to revealing a negative impact on mental health was in pointing to how some teenage girls felt insecure about their bodies and under pressure to exercise more due to consuming body-conscious exercise content on social media. But the study also showed that others had been motivated to start exercising for the first time during lockdown by what they'd encountered online, which had helped them to feel healthier and boost their mood.

Martin said she personally feels negatively affected by the endless striving for physical perfection she encounters on Instagram. "As a disabled woman, I often get drawn in by this and wonder where I fit in because no one with power on these platforms represent me or my life, these images have impacted the way I view myself and have left me questioning my self worth in the eyes of others," she said.

The list of variables thrown up among the study's small sample size, along with Martin's unique individual perspective, gives us some idea of what researchers trying to investigate the link between social media usage and well-being are up against. Taking into account the spectrum of responses from teens of different genders, backgrounds, ages, life experiences and personalities means that searching for one intrinsic, clearly defined link between social media use and well-being isn't necessarily possible or even desirable. 

Following the same path can lead researchers to very different conclusions -- a good reminder to teens and parents not to jump to a conclusion based on a single study.

The trouble with teens: They're all different!

Going in search of a number that can confirm that link is further complicated by the vast list of factors -- school pressure, social lives, hobbies, family difficulties, socioeconomic issues and so on -- that can all add up to impact the mental health of a teenager. Just classifying what counts as social media use is also in itself tricky. "If the one thing I could get parents to understand is that social media is many different things in one term... just that piece of information could be really valuable,"  Orben said.

The thinking behind the search for a single statistical link is that it could allow health experts to issue clear guidelines for a cap on how many hours of screen time teens should get, in the same way they issue guidelines to limit how many units of alcohol a person should drink. The four chief medical officers in the UK already ruled out such a move in 2019 after a comprehensive review of the published research, precisely because there are too many variables and definitions of social media.

It's the reason Orben is looking for ways to assess the impact of social media on the individual, rather than going in search of a general quantifiable number. For an LGBTQ+ teen living in a remote rural village, social media might mean access to a supportive community and activism resources, she said. Taking that away by applying generalized guidelines could harm rather than help. 

Another important factor to bear in mind, said Orben, is that just as social media usage has the potential to impact mental health, that relationship can be bidirectional. Mental health also has the potential to affect how people turn to social media.

"We often see social media usage as the cause of suffering, and we see that with other technologies as well," she said. "The way we feel or the way we live also impacts how we use the technology."

Moral panic about how much time teens spend glued to the TV, playing violent video games or reading magazines featuring unrealistic body shapes is nothing new, and so today's discourse around social media could easily be interpreted as the latest iteration. But Orben doesn't think it's quite that simple. "There's definitely a continuation, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't take people's concerns seriously," she said.

There are legitimate concerns about the effect of social media on the current and future mental health of teens, which is why it's being so widely investigated by researchers. But Orben says we need to be wary of press release culture in which definitive claims are made about findings and shaped into alarmist headlines. These ultimately lead to the spread of conflicting information about how seriously parents and teens should be taking the problem.

Orben says that parents need to be empowered to talk with their teenagers about what does and doesn't work for them and how it makes them feel. It's more important to look out for changes in behavior and be proactive about communicating than to focus on minutes spent on social media.

"Naturally, that's not the advice people want to hear. People want a concrete answer," she said. "Sometimes things are just really complicated, and we might not have the statistical means of understanding what something does yet."

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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Huawei reportedly in talks to sell P Series and Mate Series phone brands – CNET

huawei-mate-x-hands-on-review-3

Huawei's phones are China's top sellers.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Chinese tech giant Huawei is rumored to be in early talks to sell its P Series and Mate Series smartphone brands, according to Reuters. It cited two people with direct knowledge of the matter, who said the company was in negotiations with a consortium of government-backed Shanghai investment firms.

Reuters said that the talks began last September, shortly before Huawei confirmed in November that it was selling off its budget phone brand Honor. The company has yet to reach a final decision on whether it will definitely sell the phone brands, according to the report.

A spokesperson for Huawei denied the reports, saying in a statement: "Huawei has learned there are unsubstantiated rumors circulating regarding the possible sale of our flagship smartphone brands. There is no merit to these rumors whatsoever. Huawei has no such plan. We remain fully committed to our smartphone business, and will continue to deliver world-leading products and experiences for consumers around the world."

The Mate Series and P Series are Huawei's best-selling flagship phone models and have proved popular not just in China, but around the world. Selling them off would see the company exit the high-end phone market altogether. 

The move would follow escalating pressure from the US, which over the past few years has prevented Huawei phones from being widely sold in the country. Sanctions imposed by the US also mean that since late 2019 Huawei phones no longer ship with Google services, including the Google Play app store.

In spite of the sanctions, the company has continued to thrive outside of the US. Huawei was briefly the No. 1 phone maker last year, before losing market share to Samsung and slipping back into second place by the end of the third quarter, according to IDC

But restrictions on Huawei buying US-made components means the company has to stop making its own-brand Kirin chipsets that power its phones. It's thought that Huawei will likely run out of stockpiles of Kirin chips sometime this year.

Many of the sanctions imposed on Huawei were ordered by Donald Trump's administration, which viewed Huawei as a security threat due to its links to the Chinese government -- something the company has consistently denied. But even with a new president in the White House, there's no guarantee for the company that the US will have a change of heart.

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Google threatens to remove search engine from Australia – CNET

Google Australia news search page

Google is threatening to duck out of Australia.

David Gray/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Google on Friday threatened to remove its search engine from Australia as the country attempts to make into law a code that would force tech companies to share royalties with news publishers.

Australia is aiming to pass the law to help finance its struggling publishing industry, which is suffering due to a decline in advertising revenue. Lawmakers argue that tech giants such as Google and Facebook profit off people using their platforms to find news and that the companies should compensate newsrooms fairly.

But Google, along with Facebook, is fighting back, saying that the code, which would force companies into mediated negotiations with news publishers, is unworkable. "If this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia," Google Australia's managing director, Mel Silva, told the Australian Senate, according to the BBC.

Australia's prime minister, Scott Morrison, reacted to Google's ultimatum by saying the country would not "respond to threats," according to the Guardian. "Let me be clear: Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia," he said.

In threatening to strip Australia of its most widely used search engine, Google is following in the footsteps of Facebook, which last August threatened to remove news from its platforms in the country.

Google didn't respond to a request for further comment.

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CES 2021 showed us how robots can ease our pandemic woes – CNET

This story is part of CES, where our editors will bring you the latest news and the hottest gadgets of the entirely virtual CES 2021.

The first all-digital CES has come and gone, and it was a very different event than the ones we've experienced in the past. But it wasn't just the format that was different; the tech was different too.

There was a discernible shift in some of the products being shown off by exhibitors -- a move toward tech designed to help us live, work and stay safe through the coronavirus pandemic. Among the technologies affected by this shift, robotics stood out as a category that's been pushed in a new direction by the events of the past year.

We saw plenty of robots grace the virtual trade show with their presence. But rather than just incremental improvements on previous efforts, or novelty concept tech, we saw robotics companies push their tech into brand-new territories to meet our needs in this new normal by going where we can't and doing things we're not allowed to do.

This shift in the direction of robotics was part of a broader push by the consumer electronics industry to address the new needs that've emerged from the pandemic and are ongoing during lockdown. Among the hot items at the show were Razer's Project Hazel smart N95 mask, an LG refrigerator with a UV light emitter to disinfect, and a touchless toilet from Kohler. With people trapped in their homes and unable to interact with other folks like they're used to, we need to find new ways to do things to keep people safe while completing essential tasks. 

For robot makers, this is already well within their wheelhouse. There was plenty of evidence at CES that many robot makers have been able to adapt their technology to meet new needs created by COVID.

Old dogs, new tricks

Reachy, a humanoid robot whose strengths are interaction with humans and object manipulation, first made an appearance at CES last year. But this year, the robot was back with a new skill.

Pollen Robotics, the French company that makes Reachy, has made the robot compatible with a humanoid VR teleoperation app. The idea is that by wearing a VR headset and using hand controllers, anyone can control Reachy remotely, allowing the robot to complete tasks from anywhere in the world. 

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Telepresence robots are nothing new, but this past year has shown us just how many ways they could potentially be useful. For Reachy, who's open-source, there are boundless possibilities to go where humans can't right now and be a proxy for them.

UK-based Shadow Robots, a frequent CES exhibitor, came to the show this year with news that it's secured funding from Innovate UK to explore whether its Tactile Telerobot can be used in manufacturing COVID vaccines for Pfizer.

An expert in building advanced robotic hands that can mimic a human hand in real time, Shadow Robots will soon begin working its way through a checklist of tasks requiring high levels of dexterity and accuracy to see if the system can work in a sterile environment to manufacture vaccines cheaper, better, faster and easier.

It'll be doing tasks usually completed by humans, who have to work by putting their hands into a sterile box with gloves attached, called an isolator, said Shadow Managing Director Rich Walker. It's tricky work, with much room for human error. But the hope is that telepresence robots will give the human workers more control and lead to greater efficiency in the manufacture of the vaccines.

Walker, who's been almost exclusively selling Shadow's robots to professors and research institutions, relishes the opportunity to bring the company's expertise into another realm. "It's just really nice to do something where you can actually genuinely see we have the opportunity to help people who are solving real problems, real challenges, who have a difficult working environment," he said.

New robots to solve new problems

Not all the pandemic robots we saw at the show were simply being repurposed, however. A new category of robots also emerged: droids designed specifically around keeping our environments clean and safe.

Both LG and Ubtech, two companies that always bring new robots to CES, unveiled robots that use ultraviolet light (UV-C) to disinfect high-touch, high-traffic areas. The idea is that these could be used in hotel rooms, classrooms, restaurants and other such high-touch areas.

For Walker, who also sits on Innovate UK's Robotics and Autonomous Systems Advisory Board, this is ideal work for a robot, as it requires a high level of accuracy -- holding a UV scanner at a certain distance for a certain amount of time -- to be effective. It would be almost impossible for a human to do and ensure an entire room had been cleaned perfectly, he said. "Whereas having a robot do it, it's absolutely consistent every time, totally faultless."

LG's CLOi robot is designed to be able to navigate around chairs and tables and irradiate an entire room's touchable surfaces in between 15 to 30 minutes, depending on size. 

lg-uvc-robot-02

LG's UV-C robot.

LG

The robot is meant to bring "peace of mind," to people that they won't be exposed to harmful bacteria and germs, said Michael Kosla, vice president of LG Business Solutions USA. "A higher level of disinfection is going to become the new customer expectation in the new contactless economy where we now all live, work, learn and play," he added.

The proliferation of disinfecting robots at this year's show didn't come as a surprise to Ben Wood, senior analyst at CCS Insight. He said in an email that new roles for robots beyond manufacturing and warehousing have been coming for some time and that in October, CCS forecast that the pandemic would quicken their adoptions in other contexts due to fears about the spread of infection.

"We predicted that robots would be deployed to undertake tasks such as health monitoring and cleaning in hospitals, housekeeping in hotels and food service and payment in restaurants," said Wood. "This has certainly come to fruition and LG's UV-C robot, that was showcased at CES, is a good example of this."

Welcome, robot saviors

While looking around at the robots making their debut at the show this year, I felt that there was more room for them in our lives than ever before.

In the past, when I've written about companion robots to tackle loneliness, it's largely been for elderly people, people with dementia or disabilities, or those who are socially isolated. But these days, we're all socially isolated. 

An adorable, fluffy guinea pig robot that can respond to your touch and the sound of your voice might not have appealed to you in the past, but it could be a welcome addition to your home right now, especially if you live alone. Moflin, made by Vanguard Industries in Japan, is just such a robot.

And Samsung's new robots appeal for similar reasons. Being at home all the time seems to result in an endless parade of dirty dishes, so wouldn't it be great if you could rely on a Bot Handy to load and unload your dishwasher for you while you work? Plus, with no bars open for happy hour, it sure would be nice to have a robot pour you a glass of wine at the end of the day, while you kick back.

Similarly, the Bot Care might just be the work-from-home colleague you've really been missing. The mobile personal assistant can pop in for a chat, reminding you to take a break and stretch, or it can run through your schedule with you, without you having to flick between screens in silence yet again.

Meanwhile, Moxie, a cute desktop robot, can keep your children entertained and help them learn, with dedicated content designed by educators and child development experts.

In the past, robots have always been a luxury, but CES 2021 showed us it might be time to reassess. The world has shifted and we've been given no choice but to adapt -- and why not let robots take at least a smidgen of the strain?

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LG rollable phone shown off in teaser video at CES – CNET

The LG Rollable phone

The LG Rollable.

Screenshot/Katie Collins
This story is part of CES, where our editors will bring you the latest news and the hottest gadgets of the entirely virtual CES 2021.

Kicking off CES on Monday with a bang, Korean tech giant LG teased its rollable phone during its early-morning press conference. LG's rolling phone was first shown off with the LG Wing in September but thanks to a video we now have a clear front-on view of what the company has been working on behind the scenes, and we know its name: the LG Rollable.

Previously all we'd seen of LG's rollable was a dimly lit side-on view of what looked like a standard-sized phone that slid out into a slim tablet. But in this latest clip, the phone is shown in all its glory, with the phone smoothly scrolling out to reveal an expanded display -- just as its rollable TVs already do.

Two teasers were shown for the phone, one at the beginning of the press conference and one at the end. It was only in the final clip that we learned the device's official name. Unfortunately the phone wasn't explicitly mentioned during the event, so there's still plenty we don't know about it -- including when we might be able to learn more about this enigma of a device.

screen-shot-2021-01-11-at-13-33-25.png

The name announcement we've been waiting for.

Screenshot/Katie Collins

LG has never shied away from experimenting with unusual phone concepts and pushing them out into the mainstream. Back in 2013 when big phones were still referred to as "phablets," the company unveiled a giant phone with a curved display called the G Flex. Eight years on, screen technology has evolved significantly from rigid curves to fully flexible rolls.

That's not to say LG is the first company to reveal to the world that it's experimenting with rollable screen technology. TCL and Oppo have also teased their efforts at harnessing the tech -- and we're sure these three won't be alone. In the coming months, we're excited to see which other companies are experimenting with rollables, and whether they can make them compelling enough for us to adopt in favor of more conventional phone designs.

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